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Bobo Olson-The Hawaiian Swede


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Bobo Olson must be one of the least glamourous old time world champions, but for a while, he sure was successful. After winning the world middle title in 1953 by defeating the outstanding Randolph Randy Turpin, Bobo made 3 successful defenses of it, among others by beating Kid Gavilan by decision, before losing the title in brutal fashion to Sugar Ray Robinson. He has fought several of that time's greatest boxers and also fought for the world light heavy title against Archie Moore, but that didn't last very long. He also holds two wins over Joey Maxim and has one of the longest careers in boxing history, spanning 22 years. Here is a little more detailed account of Bobo's life and career.


Born Carl Elmer Olson 11 July 1928 in Honolulu, to a Swedish father and a Portuguese mother, the young Bobo started boxing after fighting on the streets of Honolulu. He grew to be nearly 5'11 (179 cm precisely) and had a reach of 70 inches/178 cm. He was able to obtain a boxing license after using a fake ID, at the age of 16. His first fight was therefore in August 1944. He went 21-0 before losing to George Duke on points in July 1947. He thus lost the Hawaiian middle title he had previously won, but reclaimed it in the rematch, also on points. His first noted victory was over Anton Raadik, whom he stopped by TKO6 in March 1949. Raadik had previously come close to knocking out Marcel Cerdan once. He also decisioned Tommy Yarosz, brother of Teddy, in his next fight. He first took on Ray Robinson on 26 October 1950 and lost by a KO12 in a fight for the Pennsylvania State title. In May next year, he knocked out the former light heavy top contender Lloyd Marshall in 5 rounds, in a fight at 175. Marshall was at the end of his career and would have one more fight. After losing twice on points to Dave Sands, he fought Robinson again-this time for the world title since Sugar Ray had become a champion since then. The fight was at Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, 13 March 1952. It was a very tough and close fight and Robinson went to the canvas after missing with a left hook in the 10th. In the end, Robinson won by scores that reportedly were too wide and he himself later said it was his toughest fight until then. After defeating the famous Frenchman Robert Villemain by SD10 and sending him into retirement, on 19 June '53 he won the vacant American middle title by UD15 over Paddy Young, at Madison Square Garden. This gave him the right to challenge for the world title. As Robinson had retired in the meantime, Olson faced Randolph Turpin, who held a victory over Sugar Ray and had taken the world title from him previously, before getting knocked out in the rematch. It was on 21 October at Madison SG that Olson became the world champion; Turpin was the better man early on and almost scored a knockdown in the first round, but Bobo came on in the second half and put Turpin down in the 10th and 11th and went on to win by a mostly clear unanimous decision.


Having made a great upset, Olson now became a popular persona in American media. Known as a gentleman always and a fair fighter, he was the ideal champion to many. In his first defense, he took on the reigning world welter champion, Kid "The Cuban Hawk" Gavilan. The fight was in Chicago this time, on 2 April '54 and Bobo took some punishment from lightning-fisted Gavilan, but since Gavilan never was a puncher even at 147 (and weighed considerably less), Olson never took a backwards step and kept coming on. He eventually beat Gavilan into submission in the late rounds and cut him over the right eye in round 9, in the end winning by majority decision. Olson was then supposed to defend against Joey Giardello, but he had been arrested after beating up a gas station attendant, so instead he took on the lesser Rocky Castellani for his second defense; Castellani managed to put him down in the 11th but was himself down in the 12th and in the end Olson clearly won on all scorecards. He made his third defense in his last fight of 1954, against Pierre Langlois of France and this time scored a TKO11 after Langlois got badly cut over the left eye. However, despite these successes, the sturdy Bobo found it harder to make the 160 limit and started fighting more and more above it. In 1955, he scored 3 straight wins at light heavy, beating Ralph Jones, Willie Vaughn and finally former world champion Joey Maxim, all by UD10. He then made an unwise choice and challenged the world champion at the weight, Archie Moore. The fight happened on 22 March '55 at Polo Grounds in NY and Moore won after 3 rounds, by dropping him with a left hook from which he could not recover. It was his first ko loss since the second Robinson fight and once again, it would be Sugar Ray that would stand in the way of further success for Bobo. After the Moore fight, Olson decisioned the solid contender Joey Giambra and then defended for the fourth time from comeback-trail Robinson, 9 December '55. Bobo was obviously damaged by the Moore-ko and came in in bad shape, for he was even easier handled by Robinson and stopped in 2 rounds with a combination. They had a rematch just 5 months later, but again, Olson was nowhere his old self and got stopped in 4 rounds after being put down for the count with a left hook to the chin.


He decided his days at 160 were definitely over. He again faced Maxim, however in a HEAVYWEIGHT fight! He weighed 187 to Maxim's 188 and Olson won by SD10. In his next fight however, he was knocked out in 2 rounds by Pat McMurtry; after winning the first round, Olson was caught by a big right cross in the second and knocked out. He then won 8 fights before getting knocked out, this time by Doug Jones, a world class light heavy/heavy. It was on 31 August '60 in Chicago and Jones knocked him out with a short left-right uppercut combo in round 6. Before that, Olson was ahead on points. He would continue fighting until 1966, but lost his last two serious fights, first to Jose Torres by KO1 in 1964 and his final one against Don Fullmer, by MD10. He retired at the end of 1966, aged 38 and with a record of 96 wins, 46 ko's, 16 losses and 2 draws. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 2000. He later developed Alzheimer's and died of it on 16 January 2002, aged 73. Bobo Olson was a solid scrapper who had accumulation power and was tough, although he could be knocked out by the hardest punchers. However, starting out as a pro so early kind of made him lose too many fights and so, his career didn't quite develop like it should have. But, he still achieved quite a lot considering that. Thank you.

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